09:04:11, South Carolina, 33° 22.172’N, 79° 15.803’W – Now here’s an old bridge that you’d think would be more popular than it is since everybody sees it who travels Highway 17 through Georgetown, SC to Myrtle Beach and all the tourist spots in between. But hey, who would rather spend their valuable free time on a run downed decommissioned bridge when they could be soaking up the sun on the beautiful South Carolina shoreline? A tough sell I know but give this bridge a second look. The middle section is removed and you can walk out to the edge from both sides for a great view of the Pee dee River and Black River as they converge into Winyah bay.
What’s left of the old Highway 17 bridge is now public access and that’s about as much special treatment as it’s ever gonna get. I leaned over the railing and noticed where chunks of concrete are flaking off into the river. Even fishermen don’t see this as a desirable place to drop a line. Chances are you’ll share this bridge with just a few anglers if any at all.
As you stroll out towards the middle think about all the cars that once drove where you’re now walking. The old highway lane lines are still slightly visible. Look for a geological survey marker embedded into a concrete pylon at the farthest point over the water. Inscribed is the date – 1935. Adjacent is the new bridge that took over in the 70’s.
Turn your gaze away from the hustle of traffic as it speeds by on the adjacent bridge and look down the waterway where the Pee Dee River and Black River converge. This view is historic. Along both banks for as far as the eye can see are remnants of rice fields once tilled by slaves in the 1700’s. Because of slave labor and rich fertile inland marshes Georgetown, S.C. was the world’s leading rice exporter until the civil war. Today these fields are a wildlife refuge for deer, foxes and feral hogs. Turn to look towards the city for a present day view and spot the Georgetown International Paper Mill towering above the landscape. It now grips the commerce in this historic harbor city.
On the North side, where I parked, I walked a section of the abandoned highway as it heads away from the bridge and dead ends at the Waccamaw River. There was once a bridge here too but it’s now gone to it’s final resting place on the bottom.
I was reminded what an unchecked public space this is when I got back to the car to find the tide had risen and engulfed nearly the entire parking lot but don’t let a little water stop you from paying a visit the next time you’re passing through Georgetown on the way to your vacation destination. The old highway 17 bridge may be a bit neglected but when all told, that’s what makes it so appealing.
– Steve Tanner